How can you get off to the best start with parents?
When looking at your timetable do you have lessons you dread before they begin due to some challenging students? Or do you feel some students work hard and go unnoticed among their peers? Contacting parents and guardians and building good working relationships with them could be the best solution for you.
The minefield that is relationships in school is riddled with hazards, and even more so when it comes to working with parents and guardians. In this article I’ll give some hints and tips for building strong home-school links.
One of the first things to consider is your level of communication with parents. It is incredibly important to manage workload in the first weeks of term, but I like to dedicate some time to contacting parents as soon as possible.
The Pivotal team often discuss the power of a positive phone call. At first I was skeptical, but for the sake of 5 minutes once a week I was willing to give it a try. I have to say that I was stunned with the impact; most notably the strengthened relationship I shared with the learner and their parent! Parents shouldn’t only hear from teachers when we are unhappy with their child, we should be taking some time to truly celebrate achievements, and a phone call is a more personal way to do this rather than an email.
Communicating home early sets up the foundation for a beneficial and strong relationship between you and parents.
What’s this all about then?
When making contact home, take some time to consider what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking for support with a particular set of behaviours? Are you trying to encourage a new set of behaviours?
I believe that one of the fundamental components of a discussion with home is bringing it back to the student’s learning. It is not personal. It can never be personal. Before making any phone call home I tend to write down a few key things I want to achieve in the phone call. This list will always include 3 features:
- what the behaviour is
- what its impact on the student or others is
- what we are going to try to amend or improve it further.
I am often told one of my strengths is my enthusiasm for my subject. It is intrinsic and flows through everything I do at school. However, when it comes to parents’ evenings and open evenings I notch it up even further. It would be disingenuous to call it a performance, but I certainly emphasise to parents how much I care about their child’s learning, the subject and enforcing high expectations.
Open evening is truly one of my favourite evenings of the year. I love seeing a fresh group of Year 6s exploring a new environment, I love the beaming smiles when they get to do some science in a real lab, and I love the opportunity to get the parents involved as well.
One thing to be aware of is that your reputation will always precede you. Schools are an incredibly complex environment with interconnecting webs and threads linking people at every level. You may not have heard anything about a student’s parent, but you can absolutely bet that they have heard about you! Every time they ask their child about how their day was, you are in the firing line. If you have a reputation for being unfair, it means you will have to fight against this perception.
This is why those first interactions of a year are so important, and why every conversation and lesson is critical.